Gold dust robbery

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The Gold dust robbery took place in 1839 in Falmouth, Cornwall. According to the New Newgate Calendar, pp. 480ff, "The extraordinary robbery to which these persons were parties involved circumstances probably more singular than any other which ever came before a court of justice".


Lewin Casper, a clerk in a firm of shipping agents, found out that 4,600 pounds sterling worth of gold dust had been landed at Falmouth from Brazil and was being sent on to London. Together with his father, Ellis Casper (born c.1784 in London), he carefully planned a robbery. Its failure resulted in the deportation of the Caspers and their associates.

Ellis and Lewin Casper were sentenced at the Old Bailey in London on 17 June 1839 for 15 years for "feloniously receiving stolen goods". They spent some time in the infamous Newgate Prison in London and were then transported to Van Diemen's Land on the convict ship "Lord Lyndoch" from Plymouth, arriving in 1841. It appears that it was the ship's fifth voyage to Australia. "Lord Lyndoch" was built in Calcutta in 1815 and was of AE1 class. It weighed 638 tons. The Master of the ship was John Humble and the Surgeon was Thomas W. McDonald. "Lord Lyndoch" left Plymouth for Australia on 11 September 1840 and arrived in Hobart Town on 5 February 1841, taking 147 days.

News report[edit]

The following extract is taken from The chronicles of Newgate by Arthur Griffiths, published in 1884 in London by Chapman and Hall (pp. 473–474).

"The gold-dust robbery of 1839, the first of its kind, was cleverly and carefully planned with the assistance of a dishonest employee. A young man named Caspar [Lewin Casper], clerk to a steam-ship company, learnt through the firm's correspondence that a quantity of gold-dust brought in a man-of-war from Brazil had been transhipped at Falmouth for conveyance to London. The letter informed him of the marks and sizes of the cases containing the precious metal, and he with his father [Ellis Casper] arranged that a messenger should call for the stuff with forged credentials, and anticipating the rightful owner. The fraudulent messenger, by the help of young Caspar, established his claim to the boxes, paid the wharfage dues, and carried off the gold-dust. Presently the proper person arrived from the consignees, but found the gold-dust gone.

The police were at once employed, and after infinite pains they discovered the person, one Moss, who had acted as the messenger. Moss was known to be intimate with the elder Caspar, father of the clerk to the steam-ship company, and these facts were deemed sufficient to justify the arrest of all three. They also ascertained that a gold-refiner, Solomons, had sold bar gold to the value of 1200 pounds sterling to certain bullion dealers. Solomons was not straightforward in his replies as to where he got the gold, and he was soon placed in the dock with the Caspars and Moss. Moss presently turned approver, and implicated "Money Moses", another Jew, for the whole affair had been planned and executed by members of the Hebrew persuasion. "Money Moses" had received the stolen gold-dust from Moss' father-in-law, Davis, or Isaacs, who was never arrested, and passed it on to Solomons by his daughter, a widow named Abrahams. Solomons was now also admitted as a witness, and his evidence, with that of Moss, secured the transportation of the principal actors in the theft.

In the course of the trial it came out that almost every one concerned except the Caspars had endeavoured to defraud his accomplices. Moss peached because he declared he had been done out of the proper price of the gold-dust; but it was clear that he had tried to appropriate the whole of the stuff, instead of handing it or the price of it back to the Caspers. "Money Moses" and Mrs. Abrahams imposed upon her father by abstracting a portion of the dust and selling it on her own account; Solomons cheated the whole lot by retaining half the gold in his possession, and only giving an I.O.U. for it, which he refused to redeem on account of the row about the robbery. Moses, it may be added, was a direct descendant of Ikey Solomons. He was ostensibly a publican, and he kept the Black Lion in Vinegar Yard, Drury Lane, where secretly he did business as one of the most daring fencers ever known in the metropolis. His arrest and conviction cast dismay over the whole gang of receivers, and for a time seriously checked nefarious traffic.

It may be added that prison life did not agree with "Money Moses"; a striking change came over his appearance while in Newgate. Before his confinement he had been a sleek round person, addicted obviously to the pleasures of the table. He did not thrive on prison fare, now more strictly meagre, thanks to the inspectors and the more stringent discipline, and before he embarked for Australia to undergo his fourteen years, he was reported to have fallen away to a shadow.


  • The Times Saturday, 29 June 1839; pg. 6: The Gold-Dust Robbery (fifth day)